In recent weeks, a growing number of women in Lafayette have taken to social media to share their unsettling experiences of feeling watched or followed while shopping.

One woman described a suspicious situation at a retail store in Lafayette woman on Louisiana Avenue where she actually caught a man staring at her from inside a clothes rack. She saw the man again as he was exiting a dressing room at the same time as her, then again in the parking lot.

She said when she noticed the man was in the vehicle next to hers in the parking lot she immediately grabbed her phone. When she did, he “peeled off” in a hurry.

The woman says she allegedly spoke with store associates who told her that wasn’t the first time they heard someone report the same type of suspicious behavior.

Charles Deluvio, Unsplash
Charles Deluvio, Unsplash

Another female shopper, also in Lafayette Parish, warned her followers that she was being followed around in a big box retail store. Even as she and her daughter tried to “lose” the man by exiting the store and re-entering, he continued to follow them while making eye contact.

The store reportedly told her that nothing could be done unless “things got physical.”

These incidents, reported here in the Lafayette area, highlight the importance of knowing how to respond if you find yourself in a similar situation—which is a lot easier said than done. A lot of people don't respond out of fear that they may be overreacting, which could lead to harm to an innocent person, or worse.

One of the women who shared their story with me actually deleted her original post on social media due to the negative response she got from publicly posting her experience in an effort to help.

Bruno Kelzer, Unsplash
Bruno Kelzer, Unsplash

Sergeant Robin Green with the Lafayette Police Department says that anyone who feels unsafe or like they’re being followed should definitely call the police to report the suspicious activity.

Here are some steps you can take if you ever feel like you're being watched or followed while shopping.

Trust Your Instincts

The first and most crucial step is to trust your instincts. If something feels off or you sense that someone is paying excessive attention to you, it's essential to acknowledge those feelings and take them seriously. Your intuition can often provide valuable insights into potentially dangerous situations.

Stay Calm and Maintain Awareness

While it's natural to feel anxious or fearful when faced with such circumstances, try to remain calm. Panicking can cloud your judgment and hinder your ability to respond effectively. Instead, focus on maintaining awareness of your surroundings. Stay observant, scanning the area for any signs of suspicious behavior or individuals who seem out of place.

Seek Assistance

If you believe you are being watched or followed, don't hesitate to seek help. Immediately notify store associates or security personnel about your concerns. They are trained to handle such situations and can provide guidance or take appropriate action to ensure your safety. In some cases, store personnel may even have prior knowledge of similar incidents and can offer additional support.

Create Distance

If you suspect that someone is indeed following you, attempt to create distance between yourself and the individual. Move to a more crowded area of the store or seek the company of other shoppers. By doing so, you make it less likely for the person to continue their unwanted attention.

Communicate with Others

Let someone you trust know about the situation. If you're shopping with a friend, family member, or coworker, inform them about your concerns and ask them to stay close. Having another person present can provide an extra layer of security and can help deter potential threats.

Utilize Store Services

Many retail stores have additional security measures in place to assist customers in distress. Take advantage of services such as escorting customers to their vehicles, offering a safe waiting area, or calling for law enforcement if necessary. In situations where immediate help is required, don't hesitate to request their support.

Call the Authorities

As Sgt. Green said, if you feel your safety is at risk or the situation escalates, call the police immediately. Provide them with a detailed description of the individual(s) involved, including their appearance, clothing, and any distinguishing features. It's important to report any suspicious activity promptly so that law enforcement can take appropriate action and ensure the safety of everyone involved.

Becca McHaffie, Unsplash
Becca McHaffie, Unsplash

Feeling watched or followed while shopping can be an alarming and distressing experience. However, by remaining alert, trusting your instincts, seeking assistance, and taking appropriate actions, you can enhance your personal safety and reduce the risk of potential harm.

Remember, it is always better to err on the side of caution and reach out for help if you feel threatened. And as "ridiculous" as someone may sound if they share an experience where they felt unsettled or paranoid, laughing at them or making fun of them in a public forum doesn't help the situation.

By staying connected and working together as a community, we can promote a safe and secure shopping environment for everyone.

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